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tv   Martin Bashir  MSNBC  October 3, 2012 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

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good afternoon from denver, colorado. it's wednesday, october 3rd. and time's up. the debate is here and everything is on the line. ♪ >> i don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. >> osama bin laden can't determine how we defend ourselves. >> read them in the next
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generation. >> i'd like to express my fondness for that particular bear. >> you know who voted for it? might never know. that one. >> yeah, i -- >> iron-clad lockdown. >> i understand what it means to be the commander in chief. >> with regard to the -- >> i'm speaking -- >> you -- >> i'm speaking. ♪ good afternoon from denver, where we are on the edge of our mile high seats. there's a crackle in the air as we prepare for tonight's first presidential debate. the president has touched down in denver with just hours until he takes the stage to go head-to-head with his republican challenger in what could be the most crucial 90 minutes of this campaign.
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a coin toss has determined the order, with the president taking the first question and mitt romney having the last word. but with little more than a month to election day, and early voting already under way in 35 states, our new msnbc news/wall street journal poll shows just how much magic mitt will have to bring tonight to change this game. in the national polling, a whisper of hope for romney as he trails the president by three point, 49 to 46, just within the margin of error. the problem for mr. romney, well, presidential elections are decided by electoral votes. and in that puzzle, mitt's chances are starting to crumble like a poorly constructed game of genga. it's still a close race in virginia and florida, with the president up by two in the old dominion. it's ohio with the president opening up a lead of eight points in the buckeye state,
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where voting is under way. with ohio joining pennsylvania, are iowa and new hampshire turning increasingly blue, that puts the president at 265 electoral votes. mitt romney would have to run the table of every other swing state to get to victory. and clearly, romney's so-called supporters are now reaching for desperate measures. >> on the eve of the first presidential debate, a bombshell is about to be dropped on the white house because tonight you'll hear from barack obama like you've never heard from him before. >> oh, yes, that was the introduction last night before fox aired tape of a 2007 speech by then-candidate obama to a group of black ministers in which he criticized the response to hurricane katrina and provided certain analysts with an excuse for a little racial fear mongering. >> what's happening down in new orleans? where's your dollar?
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where's your stafford act money? makes no sense. tells me the bullet hasn't been taken out. >> do you notice a change in the way he delivers this speech? >> this accent is absurd. this is not the way obama talks. in is not a dog whistle. this is a dog siren. >> it's incendiary -- >> yes, it's just about as incendiary as two white dudes debates how black is too black in a black man's speech. indeed, fox ran with it all the way into the morning on "fox and friends". >> we watched president obama for 3 hchl years. i don't think he's governed in a race this way at all. i think that was going to be an issue. should have been an issue in '08. does anyone think president obama is more towards one race? i don't think so. >> roger rails would like to see you in his office. joining us right now, let's get to our panel here in denver, mike shira, "time" magazine,
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white house correspondent, who has the cover story in this week's issue. john harwood, cnbc chief white house correspondent, and holding it down in new york city, msnbc political analyst karen finney. john, are you there in the spin room. as you know, the spinning begins before either candidate has spoken. we've seen both parties attempt to deflate expectations. but isn't the biggest challenge for mitt romney, not what he plans to say tonight, but how he explains what he's already said, in particular, his derision for 47% of the people in this country? >> reporter: certainly, martin, he's going to have to address that and try to diffuse that issue. look, this is an incredibly important event in the campaign. tens of millions of people will watch these two guys standing side by side. mitt romney is behind, but behind by three points. he could still win this race. he's got to figure out a way to both hurt obama, help himself, make credible arguments his
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economic plan will make the lives of 100% of americans better, and try to establish some connection with the american people he hasn't been able to do on far. it's a tall order. it's not impossible. >> well, thankfully, john, i'm near the department of theology here, so maybe he could do with assistance from the almighty. karen, speaking of prematch spin, we had the worst journalistic scoop since the hitler diary as john hannity foaming at the mouth as he aired a tape we've seen since 2007. what was the scoop? >> dog whistle politics. not only was it from 2007, but the president was talking about a conversation the country was having, but even president bush was talking about the socioeconomic situation that happened after hurricane katrina. they're very desperate at this time. how many times have we heard there's a shocker coming out and
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it ends up being a nonstory. that's one thing. the second idea was to send the message to the base of the party, you know, they like those dog whistles. i don't think mitt romney will be able to do that effectively during the course of the debate, because in the debate he has to try to appeal to the middle. i think they wanted to get a little something out there for the base, so is that they would have -- so that today they could be, you know, talking about that horrible, you know, barack obama, the black man, in advance of the debate. >> yeah, absolutely, shock, horror, barack obama is a black man. michael, i've read your outstanding piece in which you talk about the fact that the process of fact-checking by voters has actually declined. it's almost a suggestion we've had so many lies through this campaign, and i can think of at least 60 delivered by the romney/ryan camp, that people are just not responding to it anymore. >> you know, the irony is the press is actually much better at calling out these deceptions but the public has not yet shown
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they are willing to move on these deceptions. they don't -- they for give their own guy for deceiving and they love blaming the other guy for deceiving. there hasn't been any punishment. if you're a political consultant or political professional, you know other than sending eames to fact-checking sites or writing an open letter, you don't have to worry too much if your ad contains something, which several of these ads have. you've discussed a number on your show that aren't factually accurate. >> john, isn't the temptation for the president here, who, let's be honest, is a very self-controlled and disciplined man, but isn't the problem going to be if he hears mr. romney say, mr. president, you've been on an on poll i go tour, you don't know what you're doing in the middle east, you're waiving the work requirement for welfare. if he keeps going like that, the president is likely to lose his temper, isn't he? >> reporter: oh, i don't think so. look, the challenge facing
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president obama -- >> you don't? >> reporter: -- is the equivalent of a football team ahead trying to run out the fourth quarter. i think his challenge is to deflect, to respond to those with some element of humor, bemouss bemousseement. he'll cite fact-checkers and say independent analysts say your welfare charge is wrong, that sort of thing. i would expect him to be as much above it and not peevish, arrogant, not condescending as is possible to be. this is a president who doesn't make too many mistakes. >> karen, tonight's focus is domestic. >> yep. >> no bigger domestic issue than the economy, as we know. we'll have a rather open format. do you think we'll actually hear a specific from mr. romney on how he plans for a revenue-neutral 20% tax cut across the board for every american? are we going to hear that tonight in. >> no, absolutely not. i think what you're going to
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hear and see is more of a tactic. sort of a communications tactic of making it sound like he's talking like a plan, like that 17,000 cap he threw out the other day and then his team walked that right back. probably -- >> karen, that's known as i've got a hole in my pocket, dear liza. >> that's right. you'll hear him talk about a number of these things as if it sounds like a plan, but without any specifics. i think what you'll see from the president is more specifics. again, the president actually has a record to talk about. i mean, put forward a health care plan. happened to be, you know, based on mitt's, but whatever. he has a jobs plan, a number of things of specifics he can point to whereas romney doesn't. i think that will be part of the contrast the president will be going for. i think romney's only defense on that, since i don't think he'll give us specifics, is rhetoric and to make it sound like he has a plan. >> do you agree with that, mike? >> i think both have holes in specifics. the president hasn't been very
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clear about what he's going to do to social security, to medicare. romney hasn't either but it's not like one candidate totally filled out that ballot. i think this is a situation where mitt romney comes in with a much bigger hill to climb but yet more opportunity. in minds of a lot of people they're thinking of 47%, they're thinking of -- they're thinking of the sort of monty burns car ka tour. what debates are good at are getting through caricatures. this is one time in the cycle we'll get the two candidates standing next to each other and cuts through caricature and the falsehood as well. >> john, part of romney's strategy -- >> reporter: me? >> yes, john. >> reporter: i was going to say, i totally agree with michael. first of all, president obama in several significant areas, like entitlement reform going forward, has also not laid out specifics. but i find it a little puzzling
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what romney has done. he put out that 17,000 cap on deductions yesterday, which something that a lot of policy experts think is a pretty good idea. i don't quite understand why he walked that back. it was kind of like after he was on "meet the press" with david gregory a couple weeks ago and said i wouldn't repeal everything in obama occasion i would keep popular elements and within 24 hours his aides were saying, not exactly. i find that a little confusing. he has to figure out a way to have a consistent message that is credible and appeals to the swing voters he needs, especially white women. that's his target tonight. >> i think they pull that back -- >> karen, haven't we seen this process throughout this campaign? mr. romney says something, 24 hours later, the campaign goes out and says, he didn't mean that. he meant something else. >> here's the problem, every time romney thinks off the top of his head of something, which is probably why he was practicing zingers, he says something his campaign has to walk back. that's the greatest danger for him in his campaign. the reason they walked back that 17,000 cap comment f you looked
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at the statement from the campaign very carefully talked about that the president -- that governor romney, no kind of redistributive, you know, idea. i think wealthy people flipped out at the idea because he also talked about, well, maybe, the wealthiest won't even get that. they'll get something else. they probably got some phone calls, which is part of why they walked it back to say, no, no, no, just an idea he was throwing out there. >> indeed. karen finney, jonathan -- sorry, michael sherer and john harwood, thank you. could the president's best defense be offense? stay with us. >> barack obama was talking about a quiet ride today. no, it was not a reference to the 1980s heavily metal band, unfortunately. the senator waded into the controversial waters of race during a speech at hampton university in virginia. >> it is a glimpse into the mind of the real barack obama. and it's one all americans need to pay close attention to. joining me now to talk about this video is the man who broke
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it's no exaggeration to his cut out for him tonight. it's not just how he explains his derision for 47% of the population. derision that has had a negative impact on voters in a new nbc news poll. tonight it's all about how he retunes his own attacks on the president, which have done worse
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than they'll. they're actually helping the president. after a blizzard of attacks on the president's, you didn't build that line, 36% of voters tell nbc they view the president more positively, versus only 32% who say the opposite. joining us now in denver is jonathan alter, msnbc political analyst and in new york, richard wolffe, newly minted editor of thank you, richard. we bow in your honor. >> congrats. >> thank you. >> tell me if this were right, if mitt romney were to hit the president with a line, you didn't build it, he would be helping the campaign for the president? >> it's also long in the tooth as an attack line. >> just a bit. >> and they've played it out. and it was taken out of context. it actually gives the president an opening to say that he was talking about rebuilding roads and bridges and things are quite popular with the american public. i don't think that would be a smart line of attack.
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i doubt he'll do it. i think he would try to position himself in the center and make it seem as if he's been a moderate republican all along. he need those independent voters in order to win this election, martin. i think we'll watch him attack the center on immigration, on job creation, all kinds -- taxation. all kinds of issues that might give him a fighting chance of getting back into this race. >> we'll have to fight a helicopter just above us. richard, romney's bigger problem is his 47% remark. the numbers in the new nbc poll are simply awful for romney. can you do anything in five weeks to negate their impact? >> you know, they have broken through -- >> oh, thank you. >> they've broken through. you know, this was a point in 2008 when something similar happened with john mccain. he couldn't recall in an interview how many houses or properties he owned. that became a sort of explaining narrative for all sorts of reasons why, and this may sound familiar, why he seemed out of
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touch. this 47% video resonated to a greater degree than john mccain not remembering how many homes he owned. so, if you have failed at this point to explain who you are, if you have another version of that story out there, you cannot undo it in one debate. you can try and engage with people directly to camera, but mitt romney is also going to want to land some punches. that's going to take time away from his job, number one, which should be telling people, for once, who he really is. >> i think that may be intentional. john, this is how romney's running mate paul ryan addressed the 47% comment captured in that secret video yesterday. take a listen. >> is there any way possible that this 47% can pay a nominal fee or something so they feel that they have small ownership in the government and maybe they won't take all the handouts so
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readily? >> i've got an idea. let's help them get a job so they're good paycheck so they're good taxpayers. >> so, paul ryan says 89-year-old great grandmothers, currently using benefits, should go and get a job. >> it's not just the grandmothers and veterans. the working poor, who are given something called the earned income tax -- >> who are actually employed -- >> he knows this. so, this is really shameful. paul ryan knows better. he's trying to tap into the anti-moocher vote. and it's -- in the past, it's been a significant number of people in this country who think there are a bunch of lay-abouts lying on the couch, watching tv and eating cheetos. 45% do work. they just don't make enough money. the government decided under ronald reagan at first, give
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them a tax credit. in other words, send them a tax -- >> incentivize them to work. >> ryan knows this but he's just pandering to the worst instincts of his audience. >> martin, i don't know how -- or what goes through someone like -- the head of someone like paul ryan where he isn't going to accept the framework of that proposition, which has been so damaging. really a sensible candidate wouldn't try and accept the premise of the question. he'd try and explain it. he'd say, this is where we want to move the country. not about work, but it's been so damaging to sort of accept it and engage in it and embrace it, it is such a losing proposition. even the research from his own campaign must tell him that. >> john, you have previously remarked to me on the fact you regard paul ryan as a smart man. a man that understands numbers. that 47% tape has been out there for almost three weeks and he's making that kind of comment yesterday. is he really that smart? >> well, he's very smart on the
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budget numbers, but his problem is he's in the grip of an awful ideology that he began to read in high school, suffered from a form of arrested development where he stuck with it where a lot of other high school kids gave it up. as recently as two years ago, he was preaching how wonderful rand was, she influenced all of his thinking. only came out she was an atheist, he backed away from her. rand divided the country into moochers and producers. this is where mitt romney's heart is. he believes in his heart -- >> 30% of the nation are moochers. >> these folks are moochers and don't deserve anything from our society. >> amazing. jonathan alter, richard wolffe, thank you. the clock is ticking as we get closer to the main event. much more from denver in just a moment. >> i've also been working on some, that's what she said zingers.
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for instance, when obama is talking during the debate, i'll just interrupt him and say, that's what she said? gets him every time. [ rosa ] i'm rosa and i quit smoking with chantix. when the doctor told me that i could smoke for the first week... i'm like...yeah, ok... little did i know that one week later i wasn't smoking. [ male announcer ] along with support, chantix is proven to help people quit smoking. it reduces the urge to smoke. some people had changes in behavior, thinking or mood, hostility, agitation, depressed mood and suicidal thoughts or actions while taking or after stopping chantix. if you notice any of these stop taking chantix and call your doctor right away. tell your doctor about any history of depression or other mental health problems, which could get worse while taking chantix. don't take chantix if you've had a serious allergic or skin reaction to it. if you develop these stop taking chantix and see your doctor right away as some can be life-threatening.
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>> he had the burrito bowl at chipotle. >> you have five boys, you learn to relax very well. >> class warfare and rationally charged rhetoric ever used by barack obama -- >> people ask me if people thought race was the response was so slow. this administration is color blind in it's incompetent tense. >> we watched president obama for three years. does anyone think president obama is more towards one race? i don't think so. >> whipping up fear, paranoia and hatred. it's embarrassing. >> 47%. >> mitt acknowledged it was an inarticulate way -- >> 37% want the welfare state. >> you called them moochers. >> it would take me too long to go through all that. >> middle class has been buried the last four years. >> we agree! >> i'm not going to exploit my
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opponent's youth and inexperience. >> it's the idea that i question. >> you know who voted for it? that one. >> 10,000 bucks? >> i'm running for office, for pete's sake. i can't have illegals. >> will you follow your father's examples? >> maybe. >> i'm speaking. >> people to want see romney man up. >> the debate could change everything, or romney could get a two-point bump. either way it's news. >> let's get right to our panel now. we're joined by steve kornacki, co-host of "the cycle," jimy williams back in new york. steve, mr. hannity and, what's his name, mr. carlson, is that his name, they talk about whipping up fear, paranoia and hatred. that's them, not the video, isn't it? >> i mean, it is amazing to me that the right is still, five years after barack obama became a presidential candidate -- >> five years after i saw that very video. >> the moment, if there was a moment the whole jeremiah wright
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association and all this racial stuff that's there, if there was a moment that that was going to hurt and sink barack obama politically, it was april of 2008. there was a serious crisis in barack obama's campaign. he delivered a speech on race, a speech to be remembered for years to come and that put the issue to rest for 70%, 80% of the public. but there's this sliver of the public on the right still living in april of 200. it's a real problem for the republican party. when you're a month away from the election and your candidate is losing and this is what you're counting on as the big bombshell, you're out of touch with where the rest of the country is. >> right. jimmy, republicans don't have a lot going for them right now, but they seized on a recent comment by joe biden, who else, who said the middle class has been buried. i wonder if they've overestimated the importance of this statement. take a listen. >> those happens to be the words of the distinguished vice president of the united states, mr. joe biden.
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no, don't boo. he's the best thing we got going, guys. >> jimmy, i'm sorry, but if joe biden is the best thing they've got going for them, they must have a terribly mediocre candidate. >> perhaps if that's the case, then the converse is true. perhaps mitt romney is the best thing we have going for us on the democratic side. but that's not the case. what we have, instead, is a president of the united states who has stopped the bleeding of 800,000 jobs a month. whose unemployment rate he inherited is now down. that the economy is growing, tepidly but growing as opposed to contracting and shrinking under the last president. so, if they would like for joe biden to be their biggest asset, have him. i'm all for it. because they won't be able to, in a trillion years, match the former senior senator of delaware, the dean of the senate, if you will. they can't touch him. the reason they can't touch him is because he actually knows what he's talking about. unlike mr. romney or mr. ryan.
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>> steve s there anything they can do tonight or mr. romney can do to really push that needle, particularly in the swing states? >> i think there are two things to look at here. the problem for romney is this, he is constrained in very serious ways in a form like this where his party is. president republican party in response to obama's election moved fartherer to the right. there are demands from republicans, if you are mitt romney and you're going to be specific on the issues, there are demands you articulate an extremely conservative -- >> i'm sorry to interrupt you. on alter things romney will do that, he'll swing back to the middle on the economy, swing back to the middle on immigration. you think he won't? >> he can do that in broad strokes. i think he's very good at that. the question is then this, what does barack obama or what does jim lehrer do as the moderator. he will anticipate a broad
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strokes vision about his tax plan. then the question becomes, how do you pay for it? you're going to cut taxes for everybody. it's going to be deficit neutral. you say you're going to close loopholes, deal with deductions, so let's talk about those deductions. you know, home mortgage deduction, charitable giving deduction, health care deduction. are you willing to tell the middle class -- >> tax deduction. >> are you willing to tell the middle class some of these are off the table? if you are, how do you pay for it? >> he's not going to. he has bucket, 17 grand. is that not good enough for you? >> that's the problem. if he starts getting specific like that, what the right wants to hear is not what 80% of the country wants to hear. that's the fundamental problem he has. >> the bar is pretty low for mr. romney. how does he get through the 90 minutes without any further problems? very quickly. >> i've been a big fan of the fact that mitt romney is the gift that keeps on giving. listen, if mitt romney doesn't produce a verbal or a physical gaffe tonight, then by and large, i think the republicans will probably say that he won.
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but, i think that mr. lehrer, a very honest broker, is going to do exactly what steve just said, which is demand specifics. i was on "squawk box" this morning on cnbc. becky quick and mr. sorkin both said to me, what are the specifics, and that's exactly right. he want to know the specifics. he must do that. if he doesn't, he's screwed. >> okay. jimy williams and steve k kornacki, thank you for joining us. can mitt turn around the battleground states. the clock is ticking. >> mr. president, china is demanding that the u.s. pay back its debt in full immediately. failure to do so will bring on financial apocalypse. you need to look into that camera and convince the people of china that we are good to pay back that debt. >> why you got to play me like that, china? my doctor told me calcium
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creamy spinach artichoke dip, crispy garlic chicken spring rolls. they're this season's must-have accessory. lean cuisine. be culinary chic. like a pair of well-prepared athletes, both the president and his challenger have arrived here at the university of denver to walk through the arena before suiting up for the big battle ahead. in terms of the battleground states, the president and mr. romney are close in florida and virginia according to the latest nbc news/wall street journal poll. in ohio romney seems stuck, trailing the president 51% to 43%. we're joined by a pair of well-prepared athletes themselves, perry bacon jr., an msnbc contributor, and political editor at the, thank you for coming in. so to you first, perry, here's
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what i don't understand. the polls are tight in florida and virginia. yet the president enjoys a massive lead with women and latino voters. can you explain that? >> i mean, the main thing in both florida, ohio, every state, romney leads among men. and he's -- about a month -- two weeks ago the polls were broadly for obama. now it's closing a bit because of the male part. white males tend to be republican voters and they're coming back to romney a little bit after a bit. in ohio they're not. seems as if in ohio the bain capital message has sunk in. virginia, florida, the white vote will go to romney. >> what struck you about that apparent contradiction in the polling? >> i think you saw a little bit of that bounce kind of come down after the post-convention. you're seeing it sort of return to a place where it was very tight. you saw aa shift among independents in florida, which is what made up a lot of that
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shift. the striking thing about all three polls is how few persuadable voters there are. that's what these debates are usually about but it may wind up be something to turn out the base and fire up some of their people. >> one of the issue, i put this to both of you, one of the problems with mitt romney's campaign, which has been critiqued by those on the left and right, his friends and enemies, is that he lacks specificity. when he comes to the specifics for ordinary americans, like whether they're going to lose their mortgage interest tax relief, what does he do tonight, having spent the last two years not giving us any detail? . it's interesting on that because i think the real issue with that study that was done over the summer by the tax policy center is that what it basically says is that they assume romney would have to cut some -- or increase some taxes for the middle class in order to balance the budget. and i think that's the more important part because romney has pledged not to cut the
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middle class tax deduction. so, more likely is that he's -- his plan wouldn't balance the budget, is the most likely scenario there. and i do think that you're right, though, the specifics of how you do it is very important. >> why does he stick to the 20% across the board tax cut, therefore, if domenico is right and he can't balance the budget with that math? >> the short answer is the republican primary. remember when rick perry, rick santorum, came out with tax cuts, romney hugged them. now he's stuck where he's basicsically said, tax revenue will be the same pip won't raise middle class taxes and cut everyone's income tax by 20%. the math doesn't seem to add up there. the other striking thing being he picked paul ryan, the man known for putting out -- at least more details than mitt romney, but he has not embraced. ryanism to me, at least, the core is we're going to be detailed about what conservative policy means. romney's not embraced that at all. >> good luck tonight.
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thank you both. new next, tick tock, tick tock. let's clear the air from a mile up. look, if you have copd like me, you know it can be hard to breathe, and how that feels. copd includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. spiriva helps control my copd symptoms by keeping my airways open for 24 hours. plus, it reduces copd flare-ups. spiriva is the only once-daily inhaled copd maintenance treatment that does both. spiriva handihaler tiotropium bromide inhalation powder does not replace fast-acting inhalers for sudden symptoms. tell your doctor if you have kidney problems, glaucoma,
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we're back here at the university of denver, preparing for one of the most eagerly anticipated debates of modern political times. for the president, a critical moment as he makes his pitch for another four year in the white house. for mitt romney, he stands on the verge of a life-long crusade to reach the heights his father could only dream of. both men will be acutely aware
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that optics could trump policy. the slightest sigh, the quickest glance at a watch or, heaven forbid, the smallest bead of sweat, could prove the moment that undoes everything. jonathan capehart is an msnbc contributor and opinion writer for "the washington post" and he joins us now. >> hi, martin. >> 90 minutes for lighting and cameras, everything counts tonight. which way is it going to go? >> look, i think what we're in for is a great performance. not a pejorative sense, but in the sense we'll see these two men side by side for the first time, in their first debate. we're going to see whether the zinger-wielding mitt romney shows up or if a more sober, substantive, specifics-wielding mitt romney shows up. we're going to see if a more concise president shows up in his answers and who also brings specifics to the table in terms of what he -- where he wants to take the country for the next four years, if he's re-elected.
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for mitt romney, what exactly does he want to do in terms of tax reform, in terms of entitlements, in terms of deficit reduction. where would he take the country over the next four year. so, i'm not going to play the who's going to win game. i just want to see and hear what they have to say and how they go about saying it and then trying to figure out whether that's good enough for the american people and whether they can make up the ground in the second and third debates. >> given the latest polling, john, one might be tempted to believe the greater burden rests on mitt romney. one of your colleagues on "the washington post" described him as robotic, unknowable, ideologically incoherent and out of touch with the average american. >> right. >> can a leopard change his spots? >> you know, a leopard sure can try. mitt romney is sure going to try. but you're right, i mean, the polls show it. he has a steep hill to climb in terms of changing the narrative,
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in term of bringing people to his side, in term of maybe tightening the polls with the president. when you have the 47% video out there, when you have other comments out there such as, i'm not very concerned about poor people or i like firing -- i like being able to fire people who provide services to me, it sets up this image of a person who really is not like us. the us -- by the us i mean, not just the 47%, but the 99% of the folks who don't get to live in the way mitt romney has been able to live as a very wealthy man. again, there's nothing wrong with being a very wealthy man. there is something wrong about a person running for the president of the united states who the voters feel like they can't relate to me and he can't relate to my problems, so how is he going to be able to solve them? >> john, isn't the president actually in the more vulnerable position in terms of behavior and demeanor?
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because the president has had to suffer what we know have been widespread lies about his policies, mr. romney says he's bony a world tour apologizing for america. we've had the president's very birth questioned, his personal faith questioned. isn't there a danger here that the president himself may actually be at which timed to lose his temper suffering four years of the presidency, frankly? >> i'm glad you brought that up. since the president has been dealing with this for the last four years, he's had a lot of practice. dealing with these controversial questions about himself, questions that try to delegitimize him as president of the united states. yes, the president probably has a lot more to lose in that he's the guy coming into this debate with the lead. he's the guy who actually has to hope and pray he doesn't mess up in some way that takes his lead,
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which is a statistical tie in a lot of these polls, but statistical tie or not, he's ahead and he doesn't to want lose that. th >> jonathan, the late great columnist monty ivan said debates are like stockcar races. nobody watches to see who win. they just watch to see who crashes. do you agree? >> oh, absolutely. i mean, yeah, i want to hear what they have to say, but i'm looking for that rick perry oops moment, where one of -- where one of the candidates, you know, flubs a line or -- >> that's just cruel, jonathan. just cruel. >> i know. i'm just following in the molly ivan's tradition. i'm looking for the crash. i'm not hoping for one but if one happens, i'll be riveted. >> jonathan capehart of "the washington post," thanks. >> thanks, martin. and it is now time to clear the air. tonight's egerly awaited debate is slated to focus on the economy, as you know.
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a subject the challenger mitt romney claims as his very own. >> he has no plan to get our economy working again. with well, i have a plan. i have five steps to get this economy going, create 12 million jobs, save medicare and get our incomes rising again. >> but as the campaign has moved forward, mr. romney's central argument has begun to fall apart. how on earth does he plan to reduce the deficit while simultaneously offering everyone a 20% tax cut? and why won't he tell us which deductions and loopholes he plans to close? but beneath all of these specifics is the fundamental premise that mitt romney and paul ryan have been selling, that reducing taxes will absolutely spur economic growth. there's just one problem. it doesn't bear scrutiny. look at these facts. between 1950 and 1970, the economy grew at a rate of 3.9%.
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and this, when the average top marginal tax rate was 84.9%. now, compare this with the period from 1987 to the year 2010, when the average tax rate was just 36.4%. the economy grew at a far less robust rate of just 2.9%. we keep being told that mr. romney's been rehearsing his zingers. but let's hope that he's not going to use that line from president clinton, it's the economy, stupid, because the easiest response to that is, we know who's stupid when it comes to the economy. thanks so much for watching. thank you to the university of denver for hosting us. and to all of you watching at home. my colleague, chris mathews is also here in denver. he picks things up with "hardball."
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